Galveston County Judge Mark Henry wants the county to again consider creating a special court for people with mental illness.
County commissioners on Monday are scheduled to vote on a proposal to create a mental health court, according to an agenda posted by the county on Thursday.
Creating a mental health court would benefit the county by keeping some repeat offenders out of jail and getting them into a treatment program, Henry said.
“We run the largest mental health facility in the county; it’s called the county jail,” Henry said. “We need to get the people that truly have mental health issues out of the criminal justice system.”
A judge already has volunteered to preside over the court, Henry said. But there are no final proposals about how much the court would cost the county or how many people it would serve.
Mental health courts are diversion programs where a person charged with a nonviolent, low-level crime is given the opportunity to receive counseling and other services instead of going to jail.
The program is voluntary. If a person qualifies for the program and declines, or if they fail to meet the terms for participating in the program, they’re sent through the normal judicial process.
Galveston County last discussed creating a mental health court in 2016, though the plans for that were scuttled when the state denied grant funding for the program.
If commissioners on Monday approve creating the court, they’ll have to find some money in the county’s budget to do it, Henry said. The state favors providing grants to already established drug treatment court programs that have shown some effectiveness, he said.
“They want to see a successful program before we get grant funds,” Henry said.
Mental health courts were first created in the 1990s. There are now at least 17 mental health courts across Texas, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.
Galveston County already has two other speciality courts, one for veterans and another for people suffering from drug or alcohol addictions.
Commissioners are scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.